Archive for September, 2009

WWE on Muchnick’s CHRIS & NANCY — The Twitter Daily Dozen for September 30

For a live feed of this continuing series, follow @irvmuch at Twitter.

PARTS 1 – 12

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 1 A Twitter exclusive: my complete June 2008 correspondence with WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 2 Full text also included in the companion DVD marketed with my new book on the Benoit murder-suicide.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 3 There will be daily 12-tweet bursts; “Daily Dozen” feed updated collectively at site and blogs.

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 4 HERE WE GO: Eileen M. Wargo to Irvin Muchnick, 6/16/08 6:59 a.m., “On behalf of Jerry S. McDevitt”

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 5 Dear Mr. Muchnick: Typically, WWE has ignored your so-called “reporting” and associated attempts

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 6 to promote your upcoming book seeking to cash in on the murders committed by Chris Benoit

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 7 last summer. Perhaps you have confused WWE’s disregard of you as a license to print

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 8 increasingly bizarre and defamatory statements regarding WWE and/or Mr. McMahon in your effort

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 9 to create some illusion of WWE complicity in Mr. Benoit’s decision to commit

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 10` capital murder. My purpose in writing is to dispel any such illusion you may have and to advise

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 11 you of certain facts. Thus, any further repetition of similar falsehoods by you will be treated as

WWE on Muchnick’s ‘CHRIS & NANCY’ Pt. 12 a reckless disregard for the truth. We have reviewed certain statements contained in your so-called

CHRIS & NANCY Author Muchnick’s Twitter Feed Publishes WWE Critique

CHRIS & NANCY Author Muchnick’s Twitter Feed Publishes WWE Critique

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009–In a Twitter exclusive, Irvin Muchnick, author of the new book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, has begun publishing in installments the complete text of World Wrestling Entertainment‘s legal threats to him while he was researching the book.

In an exchange of emails with Muchnick in June 2008, Jerry S. McDevitt of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis — WWE’s outside counsel and registered Washington lobbyist — commented at length, often in colorful terms, on the serial reports on Muchnick’s blog Wrestling Babylon on the progress of his book research. The blog’s home page is now

Earlier today, using Twitter’s 140-maximum-character interface, Muchnick’s Twitter feed,, published the first 12 of a series of “tweets” documenting the McDevitt-Muchnick exchange in its entirety. The series will continue with 12-tweet daily bursts, accompanied by their daily collection in posts at the Wrestling Babylon blog.

This full text is also among the files included in a companion DVD of records related to Muchnick’s research for CHRIS & NANCY.

For CHRIS & NANCY‘s table of contents, the Foreword by award-winning New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick (no relation to author Irvin Muchnick), and other preview elements and book information, go to


Connecticut Senate Race Is a Royal Rumble (full text)

[originally published at Beyond Chron on September 22,]

by Irvin Muchnick

Linda McMahon has resigned as chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment to run for the Republican nomination for Christopher Dodd’s U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut. Few rise to Ms. McMahon’s level of wealth and power with spotless hands. This may be especially true in her home state, the cradle of another storied American prestidigitator, Phineas Taylor Barnum.

Still, you can be sure the war rooms are humming with talk of possible skeletons in her closet. And we don’t just mean the remains of Paul Bearer, one-time manager of WWE’s star wrestler, The Undertaker .

What are Ms. McMahon’s political opponents most likely to probe?

“Sports entertainment” may be yucky in the opinion of elites, but American popular culture isn’t a taste test. The more serious issue for Ms. McMahon is that this fake sport, over which WWE has held market dominance for a generation, has seen literally hundreds of performers drop dead under age 50. By comparison, rock-and-roll stardom is safe, and many hold the industry’s lax health and safety standards responsible for the pandemic. Marc Mero, a wrestler in the 1990s with WWE’s predecessor World Wrestling Federation, does anti-drug lectures at high schools in Florida and holds up signs with the names of the dead pro wrestlers with whom he personally worked matches. At last count, the number had reached well over two dozen.

“Not even a soldier returning from Iraq can make a statement like that,” Mero says.

In 2007, the double murder-suicide of WWE star Chris Benoit made international headlines and led to rumblings of investigations by both Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Bobby Rush’s Energy Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. Both initiatives fizzled upon the realization by these politicians that far more people cared about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds’ fake records in the real sport of baseball. But in December 2007, the Waxman committee staff did conduct interviews – which, though not in open hearings, were transcribed and publicly released – with Linda McMahon and other WWE executives.

The interview of her husband Vince McMahon, the chairman of WWE, revealed the scale of the baggage Linda carries into the electoral arena. Vince is the visionary of wrestling’s stranglehold on cable TV and pay-per-view. He is also a calculated loose cannon. When the Waxman people, in the course of grilling Vince about WWE’s so-called Wellness Policy drug-testing procedures, asked if he continued to use steroids himself despite being an occasional in-ring performer and a role model for his employees, he refused to answer the question. The McMahons’ lawyer, Jerry McDevitt (whose Pittsburgh-based law firm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, is also registered as WWE’s lobbyist on Capitol Hill) exploded with a profanity.

In 1991 Vince McMahon admitted to having “experimented” with the anabolic steroid deca-durabolin. This came not long after a Pennsylvania doctor, George Zahorian, who served as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission ringside physician at wrestling shows, became the first doctor convicted under a statute making it illegal to prescribe steroids for non-therapeutic purposes.

In 1994 Vince McMahon was himself acquitted at a federal trial on charges of conspiring to distribute steroids to his cartoon employees (who are technically independent contractors – another area of heated controversy). The next year an investigation by New York’s Village Voice raised the question of whether a star prosecution witness, Emily Feinberg (McMahon’s former secretary and a one-time Playboy magazine model), had been corrupted by a “fixer,” Martin Bergman, who was also the husband of McMahon’s defense attorney, Laura Brevetti.

In 1998 the McMahons’ wrestling company did an initial public stock offering the same week as Martha Stewart. (Who could have guessed that Stewart would be the one to land behind bars?) For a time they were paper billionaires and listed on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. So Linda McMahon has deep enough pockets to make her Senate race interesting.

Just as others have plenty of mud to sling around and make it even more interesting.

Irvin Muchnick is author of CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, which will be published next month. Pre-order info is at

‘Connecticut Senate Race Is a Royal Rumble’ … today at Beyond Chron

Connecticut Senate Race is a Royal Rumble

CHRIS & NANCY Table of Contents And Complete Preview

Benoit Book Table of Contents

And Complete Preview at

SEPTEMBER 21, 2009—Author Irvin Muchnick’s website has released the facsimile pages of the Table of Contents of the new book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death.

This completes the preview of elements of CHRIS & NANCY, which will begin arriving in bookstores over the next several weeks. Here are all the online links:


FOREWORD by Phil Mushnick (award-winning New York Post columnist; no relation to author Irvin Muchnick)


2-PAGE SAMPLE OF THE 16-PAGE COLOR PHOTO INSERT (low resolution version)

2-PAGE SAMPLE OF THE 16-PAGE COLOR PHOTO INSERT (high resolution version – long download time)

For complete pre-order information, including international links to, go to

To reserve an autographed copy of CHRIS & NANCY direct from the author, send $19.95 via PayPal to or via postal mail (U.S. funds only) to:

Benoit Book

P.O. Box 9629

Berkeley, CA 94709

All U.S. orders of autographed copies direct from the author are at the American retail price of $19.95, with free standard shipping to U.S. addresses. Prices for Canadian and other foreign orders will be published at a later date.

Irvin Muchnick is author of WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal, and a widely published magazine journalist. He is lead respondent of the current landmark case for freelance writers’ rights, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, in which oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court is set for October 7.

Media inquiries:

Irvin Muchnick

Simon Ware

Publicity Director

ECW Press






Muchnick Review of Chris Hedges’ ‘Empire of Illusion’ … full text from SLAM! Wrestling

[originally published at SLAM! Wrestling on September 16 under the headline, “Empire of Illusion: An egghead tells us who’s zooming who,”]

Maybe it’s just a wrestling tall tale, but Adlai Stevenson, after losing one of his two races against Dwight Eisenhower for the U.S. presidency, was supposed to have said, “It hurts too much to laugh, but I’m too old to cry.”

That sums up how I feel about “serious” “wrestling books.” (The double dose of ironic quotation marks is intentional.) Some writers just don’t know how to take the moron out of oxymoron, and they shouldn’t inflict their on-the-job training on hapless readers.

Submitted for your consideration in this category is one Chris Hedges (if I may be forgiven for borrowing an old Gene Kiniski interview putdown). Hedges is a distinguished journalist and bestselling author. In his new Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Nation Books, $24.95; 207 pages, no photos), Hedges uses the pro wrestling phenomenon as the launch pad for a jeremiad on the decadence of contemporary American culture.

Well, OK. It turns out I have the same bug up my own ass. You can’t view the rise of “sports entertainment” outside the context of the end of the American Century, and anyone with even a passing familiarity with Edward Gibbon on the Roman Empire knows the telltale signs. This is no metaphor. It is epochal, real-time history playing out daily, at a remove, from al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia to Hurricane Katrina and all points in between, while we sit anesthetized in front of our TV screens.

The problem with Hedges’ take, I think, is that he’s the son of a Presbyterian minister who holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Divinity School. The result of all this moralistic ferocity and scholastic trappings is a verbal sledgehammer with a morbidity matched only by its reductiveness.

The hype on Hedges is his prowess as a reporter, but the eyewitness accounts here are flat-footed and dull-witted. More comfortably, he regurgitates big ideas: Christopher Lasch on narcissism, Neil Postman on the boob tube. He thinks Jerry Springer is the hottest thing going. He also thinks the blurring of the lines between wrestling’s heels and babyfaces is a news flash. An entire half-page is devoted to a footnote with data on the popularity of World Wrestling Entertainment. After all, you can’t take your intellectualized potato shots without first establishing your bona fides!

The book’s treatment of wrestling — which I’ll get to in a moment — betrays the agenda here, which is to usurp the credentials of a populist in order to deliver the tongue-lashing of an elitist.

In fairness to Hedges, the intended audience of the book is not fans. In fairness to the other half-billion denizens of North America, the book suggests that only its author grasps wrestling’s appeal to the lumpenproletariat. That this might involve, in part, their sense of humor, which is measurably more supple than his, does not occur to him.

Hedges’ beef, of course, isn’t just with wrestling. There’s also celebrity culture. There’s the cult of victimization. There’s “the illusion of love” — a fancy way of saying “the pornography industry.”

And there’s Las Vegas, “the corrupt, willfully degenerate heart of America,” whose strip is “a monument to our … eternal childishness.” Memo to Hedges: Las Vegas is also the capital of the resurgence of organized labor. But he’s not interested in complexity. Nor, apparently, was he interested in Henry James’ advice to writers to cool down before they write.

As for wrestling itself, Hedges favors us by watching TV and, in the book’s first 14 pages, transcribing angles. JBL taunts Shawn Michaels. The Undertaker buries Paul Bearer alive. Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor mocks the death of The Big Show’s dad. (Hedges doesn’t seem to know that Traylor himself is now dead — which is part of the real outrageous story of wrestling.) Fit Finley (sic) nails Mark Henry with his shillelagh while Hornswoggle distracts the referee.

Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie lock into a lesbian kiss. “The plotlines around the women, or ‘divas,’ are lurid, bordering on soft porn.” Bordering?

As Truman Capote used to say, that’s not writing, that’s typing. My sister and I used to do this kind of thing while we watched Wrestling at the Chase almost 50 years ago.

By the end of the book, what you encounter, besides relief, is the strong sense that it’s better to laugh than cry. Go ahead and let out a maniacal cackle, like Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart on Benzedrine. In Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust, the protagonist hears a police siren headed toward the carnage of an apocalyptic riot at a Hollywood movie premiere. “For some reason,” West writes, “this made him laugh and he began to imitate the siren as loud as he could.”

Empire of Illusion, my friends, is that siren.

Irvin Muchnick’s Chris & Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death will be published in October by ECW Press. Pre-order information is at

Chris Nowinski Discusses Wrestlers’ Concussions on Toronto Radio

Chris Nowinski, the retired wrestler who started the Sports Legacy Institute, which studies athletes’ brain trauma, had a powerful interview about Chris Benoit and related subjects on the Toronto radio station The FAN 590. You can hear the interview on “Prime Time Sports” at the podcast links at

Irv Muchnick

Another Independent Wrestler Dies of Apparent Brain Injury

James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch with the lowdown on the death a pro wrestler, 21-year-old Matt “Riot” Lowry, possibly from a brain aneurysm:

Irv Muchnick

Linda McMahon Throws Her Hat — and Baggage — Into the Ring

It’s official: World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon has resigned to run for the Republican nomination for Christopher Dodd’s U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut.

Irv Muchnick

CHRIS & NANCY Author Muchnick Reviews Chris Hedges’ ‘Empire of Illusion’

Irvin Muchnick, author of the forthcoming CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death, reviews Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges at SLAM! Wrestling today:

Irv’s Tweets

September 2009